“Normal” is something we all want to retrieve. It’s out there somewhere, some day. Mean time, here is a great example of a guy who just won’t quit, despite the continuous obstructions of a COVID lockdown.
Tom Rush is a singer entertainer from the near dark but enlightened ages of the 60s. He has remained musical, entertaining and present even today, despite the virtually complete shut down of group entertainment.
If you are of, or enjoy the 60’s-70’s vintage of coffee house music, Tom Rush is part of your past and hopefully present. We first listened to this bluesy story teller at the Riverboat in Toronto. Hailing from Massachusetts, he made the trip north to hang out with Gord Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Jim Kweskin, Eric Anderson, Richie Havens, James Taylor and Livingston Taylor and a host of other free-range folk singers entertaining small groups in Yorkville, Toronto’s original coffee house district.
While many entertainers went to the big stage, Tom Rush centered himself in small gatherings of a 100 fans or so. He delivered a rich medley of stories and songs that telegraphed heartaches, pains, humor, trains, cowboys, dirty deed doers and other colorful characters. His presence was magnetic, personal, and his shows were always full.
Fast forward 50 years and we find that Tom is still composing, strumming and singing, seemingly unaware he was supposed to retire. Did not get the memo. He has a website and a newsletter, and a regular itinerary up and down the east coast, and occasionally wandering into the Carolinas and the Midwest. The venues remain the same: small crowds sitting at tables tapping their feet and soaking up the vibes.
So what do you do when a pandemic shuts down the tour? Many entertainers escaped to the islands. Others are on their boats. Some have postponed concerts and floated out new dates a year or so into the future. But who knows? Meanwhile, they sit by their phones and wait for a call to get their vaccination.
Tom took a different approach. He went back to his website followers, and invited them to sign up for a weekly concert. Rockport Sundays is just that: a podcast from his kitchen in Rockport Mass. It is available for streaming every Sunday morning. At a measly $10 a month, his fans get a morning wake up call where Rush and his genius accompanist Matt Nakoa perform a song, tell a story, and just tune in for 10 minutes or so. It is a comfortable setting, with Rush maybe shoeless, surrounded by some beautiful guitars, and frequently flanked by Nakoa and his six foot wide keyboard, totally COVID compliant.
The experience is profound. This guy was a folk blues icon when most of his fans were just getting into university. For more than half a century (ouch) he has not let go. In fact he has grown into our present as a constant reminder of where we came from. And the beauty is, it’s current stuff. He sings old songs, tells stories about his many travels and sidekicks, but also unloads new music. Through it all, the website allows for comments, and would you not know it? He responds.
If you like a little bit of kitchen table music and playing, dressed up with a background story, you should check out Rockport Sundays. It is indeed a treat.
It actually feels a bit like normal.
2 thoughts on “Tom Rush: Concerts and Conquering COVID”
An extremely talented guy who’s as down-to-earth as you can get. My wife and I saw him a few years ago here in Cincinnati, and I had a chance to talk to him at intermission. It’s comforting to know he’s still around, still active, and just as humble and warm as ever.
In addition to the above Peter, he has shared the stage and opened up a channel for his accompanist, Matt Nakoa, a lefty guitarist and virtuoso pianist.
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